Bilateral Relations

Margaret Huber on the growing Japan–Canada partnership

Margaret Huber

Margaret Huber has spent decades on the front lines of Canada’s diplomatic policy, dealing with complex issues of trade, security and human rights, in locales as diverse as Japan, Pakistan, the Czech Republic and Jordan. In the latter two nations, she served as ambassador.

In her Ottawa postings, her duties have included those of director general responsible for relations with Asia. And, although she left government service five years ago, her commitment to learn about, and to act for, the public good is as strong as ever.

Huber spoke to The Canadian on her continuing endeavours and, drawing on her extensive international relations experience, on issues at the heart of the Japan–Canada relationship.

What have you been doing since leaving Canada’s government service?

After stepping away from government service in 2013, I went back to school, taking up a fellowship at Harvard University. Since then, aside from some consulting in the energy sector, my activities have focussed on community and youth engagement.

I’ve been serving as president of the Canadian International Council’s National Capital Branch; president of the Harvard Club of Ottawa; a Music Niagara Board member; an Aga Khan Foundation volunteer speaker on international development; and a supporter of Samara Canada. Working with Wilf Wakely, a member of the Honorary Board of Advisors to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Japan (CCCJ), I’ve also been privileged to serve as a CCCJ special advisor.

What are you hoping to achieve with the work you are doing?

The purpose of these undertakings is to learn, to engage with others — particularly youth — and to contribute to informed public debate on global issues.

How do you see reciprocal Canada–Japan business success developing?

Success in both international and inter­personal relations depends on understanding how and why the views of the other may be different, and on a willingness to seek shared ground, shared goals, and a common vision of what could be possible.

How might the bilateral trade and diplomatic relations develop?

We should do more to build on the 90 years of diplomatic relations that we are celebrating this year, by looking for concrete, measurable ways to strengthen our ties. During these challenging times, many in both Japan and Canada may be pre-occupied with powerful neighbours. However, our shared values, our economic and trade complementarities, all demand greater efforts to strengthen ties bilaterally.

This includes in a multilateral form, such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and beyond. The Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games will offer opportunities to find closer relations across a wide range of possibilities.

How do you view the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership?

The pact has enormous potential. Having served as a trade commissioner during my formative years in Asia, as well as in Brussels just as the EU was moving from the then-nine member states to today’s 26 members, any moves to wider free trade get my vote.

For Canada, even if current North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement challenges with the United States are overcome, and even if Canada reaches a free trade agreement with China, we should do all we can, separately and together, to strengthen the comprehensive agreement.

What role do you see for the CCCJ in bilateral ties and business?

In bilateral relations, the role of the CCCJ is to lead, to advise and to work with policy makers. In business, organizations such as the CCCJ are strongly placed to inspire, and work in common cause with firms to take advantage of trade and economic opportunities in both our countries and in third-country markets.

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